'Angelina effect' welcomed as calls to breast cancer helpline triple

The number of women ringing the breast cancer helpline tripled following Angelina Jolie's decision to undergo a double mastectomy.

The increase matches an international trend that's been dubbed by media as the "Angelina effect".

The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation welcomed the attention Jolie has brought to the issue and said the actress had helped to raise awareness.

Foundation spokeswoman Adele Gautier said that in the first couple of weeks after news of Jolie's decision broke, inquiries to their contact centre and helpline increased three-fold.

Ms Gautier said a lot of women asked about their eligibility for the test to determine whether they had mutations in their BRCA genes that increase the chances of developing breast cancer by 60 per cent.

The line usually receives about 25 calls a week from people seeking advice and volumes have since returned to normal.

Jolie tested positive for the genetic anomaly and chose to undergo a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction. She detailed the reasons for her decision in a heartfelt article in the New York Times published on May 14.

Ms Gautier said the publicity that followed helped women have a conversation about the issue and to ask about their family history. Every day, a New Zealand woman under 45 is diagnosed with breast cancer and overall, one in nine women will have the disease.

"Angelina's story seems to have had a really positive effect on people who've realised you can have breast cancer and can go on and have a great life, or have that risk and take steps, then get on with your life," Ms Gautier said.

In Australia, the Cancer Council of Victoria reported a 1033 per cent increase in calls to its helpline.

The X Factor contestant Benny Tipene has given an interview about his family's battle with breast cancer. The 23-year-old from Palmerston North dedicated one of his performances on the show to his mother, Annette, who was diagnosed two years ago.

- by Amelia Wade

BRCA testing

Government-funded testing requires 3 or more close blood relatives on one side of family with breast cancer. Or 2 or more with either breast or ovarian plus cancer diagnosed at early age.  GP refers to Genetic Health Services who determines eligibility.  I believe the current cost if the Govt won't fund the testing is NZ$4000.  This is a complex issue and a good NZ website with all the info on BRCA Gene Mutation is www.giftofknowledge.co.nz


What exactly is the criteria for testing? Because this seems like a no-brainer as a warning for cancer, especially for ovarian cancer which can be so hard to diagnose

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